About 90 northeast Iowa veterans were flown from Waterloo to the nation’s capitol and back earlier this week and the Midwest Honor Flight organization has a flight scheduled out of Sioux Falls tomorrow.
“We’ll have the honor to fly 83 veterans out to Washington, D.C.,” says Midwest Honor Flight President Aaron Van Beek.
The trip will cost about $150,000.
“We estimate it costs about $753 for every veteran that we take along. Now this does not cost the veteran anything, of course, to travel on a day of honor with an Honor Flight,” he says. “Travel expenses for the plane ride, the busing in D.C., their meals — that’s all included in that $753 that we’re fundraising for constantly.”
The Sioux City Muskateers held jersey auctions to raise some of the money for this weekend’s flight. Each veteran on a flight is accompanied by a family member or volunteer who pays their own way. Van Beek says those guardians are an integral part of each Honor Flight.
“We do require mandatory training,” Van Beek says. “This is required by the Honor Flight Network, as well as for insurance, but all of our guardians are trained as well as our crew on the proper usage of wheelchairs, how to care for our veterans for the day and just, ultimately, how to take in the experience alongside a veteran.”
Van Beek started the Midwest Honor Flight chapter in Sioux Center in March of 2017, when he was still in college. “I’ll be honest that I did not even imagine that we would do more than two or three flights,” Van Beek says. “We’ve now since taken over 730 veterans over eight different flights.”
Van Beek has quit his third-grade teaching job to work full time in organizing flights — for the waiting ist of 850 veterans from northwest Iowa, South Dakota and southwest Minnesota.
(Reporting by Mark Buss, KSOU, Sioux Center)